Fund­ing for li­brary, schools top bud­get hear­ing

Record Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — It was more of the same dur­ing the se­cond pub­lic hear­ing re­gard­ing the Fis­cal Year 2018 bud­get as the ma­jor­ity of speak­ers spoke fa­vor­ably about the Kent Is­land li­brary and its po­ten­tial ex­pan­sion. The meet­ing, known as the Con­stant Yield Rate hear­ing, was held in the Lib­erty Build­ing in Cen­tre­ville dur­ing the County Com­mis­sion­ers’ reg­u­larly sched­uled meet­ing.

The pro­posed op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal bud­gets are $133 mil­lion and $37 mil­lion, re­spec­tively. The op­er­at­ing bud­get in­creased by about $4 mil­lion, mainly due to in­creased funds from prop­erty and in­come taxes, Fi­nance Di­rec­tor Jonathan See­man said dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion.

Of the 15 speak­ers, 12 urged the com­mis­sion to put $325,000 in its cap­i­tal bud­get to match a state grant the li­brary sys­tem re­ceived for ar­chi­tec­tural and en­gi­neer­ing de­sign to be com­pleted for a li­brary ex­pan­sion. The com­mu­nity spoke about how the li­brary has been too small al­most since it was built and that ar­eas such as the chil­dren’s room, the meet­ing room and quiet area have out­grown the de­mand.

Mul­ti­ple speak­ers ref­er­enced how the pop­u­la­tion on Kent Is­land had greatly in­creased over the years but the build­ing has had lit­tle work com­pleted since it was built in 1989.

John Walden, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the li­brary sys­tem, be­gan by thank­ing the com­mis­sion for its con­sis­tent fi­nan­cial sup­port over the years as the li­brary op­er­at­ing bud­get had ex­panded, as well as funds pro­vided to keep the li­braries open on Sun­days.

Walden, who was “pleas­antly sur­prised” with the num­ber of speak­ers who came out to sup­port the li­brary at the first bud­get hear­ing at Bay­side Ele­men­tary School on Mon­day, said though the $325,000 match would pay for de­sign work only, state grants are po­ten­tially avail­able for fu­ture con­struc­tion funds the county could ap­ply for.

With a con­struc­tion time­line of about 16 months, Walden said Queen Anne’s County is in a strong po­si­tion to ap­ply for ad­di­tional con­struc­tion fund­ing. He men­tioned how li­braries in An­napo­lis and Bal­ti­more each re­ceived $1 mil­lion re­cently for con­struc­tion en­hance­ments.

“I am con­fi­dent that to­gether we can find a fund­ing strat­egy that keeps our project mov­ing for­ward on the time­line ... es­tab­lished with our grant ap­pli­ca­tion,” Walden said.

Mul­ti­ple speak­ers shared what li­braries in gen­eral meant to them and how hav­ing a thriv­ing li­brary en­hances a com­mu­nity, as well as shared sto­ries of over­crowded rooms due to the lo­ca­tion’s many pro­grams and ser vices.

Mary Jack­son said she had never seen a li­brary do so much with so lit­tle.

Re­quired by law to hold a con­stant yield rate hear­ing, See­man told the au­di­ence the county has pro­posed not us­ing it and keep­ing the $670,000 rev­enue. The con­stant yield rate is the amount of the prop­erty tax rate should change to col­lect the same amount of rev­enue as the pre­vi­ous year.

The county has pro­posed keep­ing the cur­rent tax rate of $0.8471 per $100 of as­sessed value rather than us­ing the con­stant yield rate of $0.8388 per $100 of as­sessed value.

He­len Ben­nett, the only per­son to speak about the con­stant yield rate, asked the com­mis­sion­ers to use the lower tax rate. “You have a chance this year to give the res­i­dents a break. Just keep the con­stant yield and let them have a lit­tle break on their taxes,” she said.

Gre­gory Pilewski, in­terim su­per­in­ten­dent of pub­lic schools, be­gan by thank­ing the com­mis­sion for its “con­tin­u­ous gen­eros­ity” and its win-win part­ner­ship with the school sys­tem.

Speak­ing on be­half of more than 1,250 full, part­time and sup­port em­ploy­ees and the 7,462 stu­dents, Pilewski re­marked about how the teach­ers had im­ple­mented fed­eral, state and lo­cal re­form ini­tia­tives such as new stan­dards, as­sess­ments, in­struc­tional strate­gies and tech­nol­ogy.

“Our teach­ers never balked at the task and it is re­mark­able the pas­sion they bring each day to meet and reach the needs of ev­ery stu­dent,” he said.

Pilewski told the com­mis­sion em­ployee com­pen­sa­tion is a top pri­or­ity but the fund­ing level pro­posed would not be enough to fully pay for health care in­creases, fund­ing of bus con­trac­tors as well as the abil­ity to pro­vide Cost of Liv­ing Ad­just­ments and pay in­creases for its staff.

He said the board is about $800,000 short of ac­com­plish­ing that goal. The com­mis­sion has pro­posed fund­ing the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion at Main­te­nance of Ef­fort, which is $55,495,261. The amount is $1.3 mil­lion more than the pre­vi­ous bud­get.

“The suc­cess of Queen Anne’s County Pub­lic Schools has been built on a foun­da­tion of ex­cel­lent teach­ing, safe and nur­tur­ing learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment, strong par­ent par­tic­i­pa­tion, out­stand­ing com­mu­nity and busi­ness part­ner­ships and ad­e­quate re­sources,” Pilewski said.

Bill Faust, chair­per­son of the Fire and EMS Com­mis­sion, thanked the com­mis­sion­ers for po­ten­tially re­duc­ing the qual­i­fy­ing age el­i­gi­ble for the Length of Ser­vice Award Pro­gram (LOSAP). The com­mis­sion rec­om­mended low­er­ing it from age 65 to 55.

The LOSAP pro­gram al­lows vol­un­teer fire com­pany mem­bers the abil­ity af­ter a cer­tain age to re­ceive a monthly stipend, Todd said.

The third bud­get hear­ing was held af­ter press dead­line Wed­nes­day, April 26, at Sudlersville Mid­dle School, 600 Charles St., Sudlersville.

To view the bud­get in its en­tirety, visit the county’s web­site at www.qac.org.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

The com­mis­sion meet­ing room in the Lib­erty Build­ing in Cen­tre­ville was filled as com­mu­nity mem­bers came out to par­tic­i­pate in the se­cond of three pub­lic hear­ings re­gard­ing the Fis­cal Year 2018 bud­get. The hear­ing was held on Tues­day, April 25.

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